November 11, 2008


     What can I say that hasn’t already been said about the most transformational election of my lifetime?  It has been a week to savor.  The election of Senator Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States sent a signal heard ‘round the world that the times they are a changin’ in America.  


     We’ve all been hearing for years that the U.S. was becoming a multi-racial nation, as Hispanics, Asians, Indians, Arabs and many other immigrant populations have steadily grown.  But I believe the 2008 presidential election was the moment when Americans, as a people, turned a corner and began to embrace the diversity of our country as never before.  From the perspective of leadership, the significance of this election goes way beyond WHO was chosen as the 44th president. WHO did the choosing was equally significant.

     A highly diverse coalition of voting Americans came together to smash the old paradigm of what a president of the United States “looks like.”  Obama won young voters (2/3rds), older voters, college educated, working class, red state, and blue state.  But the largest cohort group behind Obama's victory was women, who supported him(56%) in bigger numbers than men (48%).   Obama was supported by: 

• 96% of African American women
• 68% of Latina women
• 46% of White women

African Americans and Women Have Always Risen Together:  The night of the election, one of the most profound insights I heard came from an African American, male, Harvard Law Professor speaking on National Public Television.  While everyone around him was focusing on the significance of the ultimate leadership racial barrier being smashed, he pointed out that Obama’s election was equally significant for women.  Why? 

     He eloquently reminded viewers of how inter-twined African Americans’ and women’s progress has been in our history.   It was women’s activism, in the late 19th Century, during the Abolitionist Movement to end slavery that led to the Women's Suffrage Movement and, finally, the right for women to vote in 1920.  It was women’s activism during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s that led to the fight for their own legal rights during the Women's Movement of the 1970s. 

     And in 2008, it was a rainbow coalition of women who came together to help sweep the Harvard-educated son of an American and a Kenyan into the White House and the most powerful leadership position in the world.  

U.S. Trails 68 Countries For Women Elected Leaders:  The United States is ranked 69th of 188 countries ranked for the percentage of women elected to their national parliament or legislature.   The African nation of Rwanda is first with 56.3%.  Sweden is second with 47%, while the U.S. lags behind 68 countries with only 17% of women in our Congress.  

     But change is in the wind.  I believe -- and hope -- that this amazing election is just the beginning of a dramatic expansion of America’s ability to tap the full potential of our greatest natural resource:  our people.  ALL of our people.  

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